Flying Squirrel Motorcycles

Toronto auto shop is being transformed into a stunning new motorcycle store and cafe

A greasy 30-year-old garage in Toronto is slated to become the city's first hub for coffee beans and motobikes.

Leslieville's motorcycle parts and service store Flying Squirrel Motorcycles has just moved into the old digs of Nobel Auto Service, at the corner of Queen and Knox.

Flying Squirrel owner and property developer Alex de Cartier has big plans for the sprawling 5,000-square-foot space. 

Construction has been underway since September to transform the nearly 100-year-old building, which de Cartier described as a "falling down mess", into a retail store and community space for motorcyclists to gather, when health measures allow for it. 

With the help of Pivot Built and design company Ancerl Studio, the dingy garage at 1345 Queen St. E. is slowly transforming with warehouse glass windows and a sleek, industrial look.

That includes a new cafe and roastery called Omnia Coffee Roasters, opened in partnership with Sameer Mohamed of Fahrenheit Coffee.

After just four months of work, Omnia is already up and running from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Roasted beans and revving bikes make a good combo. A display area in the cafe will eventually include a different motorcycle featured weekly.

"With the motorcycle culture comes coffee," says de Cartier, who took over Flying Squirrel from its original owner a year and a half ago.

De Cartier has been riding motorcycles all his life, but says that the community in Toronto is sorely lacking in meaningful community space. 

Town Moto on Ossington, which sells motorcycle apparel and gear, has helped to "hold the scene together," he says, but there are currently no shops and services in the downtown core for riders to congregate.

"Its a huge community but it's very fractured," he says. "There are no places for us to go."

Last year saw a huge spike in motorcycle sales thanks to COVID-19, with demand well exceeding supply. 

He hopes that the new Flying Squirrel—orignally located at Dundas and Carlaw—will become the one-stop shop for motorcyclists on a membership basis, offering service, storage, roadside assistance, and a lounge. Plus caffeine for the ride.

With a huge parking lot out front, there's de Cartier envisions weekly Saturday morning events like pop-ups and other events for the community by spring, pending COVID-19 restrictions.

"We're not trying to disguise what it is, it's about making a raw space really shine," says de Cartier. "It's less about taking care of your bike and more about taking care of you as a human."

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